Rita Lasar, co-founder of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, has died at the age of 85. Her brother, Abe Zelmanowitz, died on the 27th floor of the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks, after he refused to leave until emergency workers came to help rescue his best friend Ed, a paraplegic. Lasar went on to become a peace activist who traveled to Afghanistan to meet with the families of those killed in the U.S. war there. This is a clip of a remarkable conversation on Democracy Now! in 2002 between Rita Lasar and Masuda Sultan, an Afghan woman living in New York at the time of the 9/11 attacks, who soon learned that 19 members of her family had been killed by the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan. This is Rita Lasar.
Rita Lasar: “President Bush mentioned him in the National Cathedral speech and cited him as being a hero. And I realized that my government was going to use my brother as justification for killing other people, and that had a tremendous impact on me. I didn’t want that to happen, not in my brother’s name. And so I wrote a letter to the Times, which they printed, asking our government to please be cautious and not do something they couldn’t take back. And then I was asked to speak at a peace rally, and I did it. And just before I went on, I was told they had started bombing Afghanistan, and I realized something I had never realized before. I had heard the term 'collateral damage' all my life. It was always used about people far away from us. And I realized now what it meant, because my brother was collateral damage, in a war that he didn’t want and Masuda’s people didn’t want.”
That was Rita Lasar, speaking on Democracy Now! in 2002. She died of cancer at her East Village apartment on Sunday. The United States war in Afghanistan continues. It’s the longest war in U.S. history. Among those who survive her are Matthew Lasar, who wrote “Pacifica Radio.”